Saturday, February 26, 2011

Extra Photos

I was asked the other day if I had any other photos posted anywhere... to which the answer was no. However it got me thinking that it wasn't a bad idea. So if anyone is actually interested, or you've already stalked everyone on facebook and still have 3 hours of work to go... is another blog where I am starting to post more photos...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Little piggy, little piggy

There's an old myth that if you rub the nose of the bronze pig statue in Florence, you will have good luck and inevitably return to Florence in the future...

Having just had my fourth visit to Florence, I'd say the little piggy came through!

After finding out that a German visa is going to be very difficult to acquire (without a german boyfriend let alone husband), I decided to look further into Italian visas. So I used that as my basis on taking another trip to Italy. Just a week, nothing extravagant, Florence- Grosseto- Rome... and for your information; Florence doesn't have an embassy, nor a consulate, and the immigration office don't speak english. Grosseto is near the beach and has lots of pork, but I went on the weekend, and nobody wants to talk visas on the weekend... so I just had to enjoy myself until I got to Rome, there was just no other option!

In Rome, I went to the Australian embassy, who told me to go to the immigration office, who told me the information office was closed, come back in half an hour. Half an hour later the policeman rudely told me I should have gotten a visa in Australia, but he wasn't really sure... try the police station on the other side of town, at which the officer I needed to talk to had already gone home...

In the end, from reading countless articles, forums and websites (all containing different information) and talking to a few authoritative figures (who kinda knew... but thought I better check elsewhere just in case), I have come to the conclusion that if I want to stay in one place for any length of time in Europe, without the hassle of going back and forth between Schengen and non Schengen countries, I am going to have to go back to Australia and apply for a visa...

The question of visas.

While I was staying in Lorrach I made the trip to the "Aliens Authority" to get information on the German visas I could apply for. I had read that by all accounts, the people working at said 'Aliens Authorities' are employed for their unified hate of foreigners and general bad moods. Luckily for me, once I got past the lady in reception (who didn't speak a word of english), I was greeted by a lovely German lady ready to help me with my enquiry...

My options were as follows:
a) A work visa. Requiring sponsorship from a (legitimate) employer.
b) A study visa. Which requires enrolment in an authorised school or university (German must be one of the studied subjects)
or c) Marry a German.

Not speaking a word of German, and not really one of my preferred languages to learn, the first two options were out. Leaving option c) Marry a German... but these things take time, so I needed a new plan. After a week in Germany, I was back in Italy to do more... visa stuff...

Ok, so this last photo is totally unnecessary, but this book made me laugh when I saw it in a second hand book stall...


From Milan it was time to head back to my sisters house in Lorrach, Germany to 'sort out a visa'... if I'm completely honest, I really just wanted to see my sister and relish in a few comforts from home. I'm one of those people that can get 100 things done at once if I need to... but if there isn't anything that HAS to be done, I often find it hard to get the motivation to do anything at all. After traveling for almost 3 months now, I have noticed that I am losing motivation to get out and do things, whether it be site seeing, walking, writing this blog, taking photos etc etc etc. I need to re-discover my travel mojo. So by going back to my sisters place I was able to take time out from feeling like I should be doing something travel related all the time... I finally had a kitchen of my own (which is where I happily spent most of my time), family around me and no obligation to do anything at all... Oh except for that damned visa, but I'll tell you about that later.

In Europe at this time of year, it's Carnival time. This is an amazing array of costumes, masks, music, parades food, beer and above all; Confetti. It's so much fun! We stumbled upon an extra, early parade in Lorrach this year because they're celebrating their 75th year of Carnival, which gave me a taste of the festivities to come...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The other side of Milan

Mario and his amazing disco kitchen weren't the only side of Milan that I saw. I did manage to make it into the city for a full day, and whoever said Milan is a boring city has obviously never done it my way!

I had great intentions for being a real tourist... I did a couple of the popular sites mixed which quickly turned into a few of my own..
  • I went to the top of Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, where I had a view of the whole smogged out city
  • window shopped in the main shopping streets of Milan
  • meandered the streets of the old city
  • managed to walk into a cute little church just as the lunch service was about to start. I thought it would be disrespectful to leave so I took my place in the 4th (of 5) pews, stood when they stood, “sang” when they sang, repeated the words in front of me (or at least attempted) and knelt to pray with everybody else. I eventually made my escape when communion was offered... I thought that might be pushing the language barrier!
  • found a fantastic salumeria for lunch and trustingly let the lady order for me... this landed me a massive plate of local prosciutto and salamis, peccorino, fresh bread and a bowl of sparkling red wine.
  • I then proceeded to get myself locked in the restaurant toilet for 20 minutes (because I fail to read signs) and learnt the word aiuto! (help) until someone saved me by kicking the door in. Eh stupid tourists. 

On the way home on the metro, pondering my haphazard day, I could hear Kylie Monogues 'I'm spinning around, move out of my way...' and was sent into fits of giggles as I watched a straight faced, fashionable Italian man trying to stop himself singing along to his blaring Ipod...
Oh Italy, how I'll miss you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

La Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region of Italy. "The Five Lands" is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore and over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible "modern" development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars aren't able to reach it from the outside. It is a very popular tourist destination in Summer, but as I was there in off season many of the shops, restaurants and hotels were closed for winter and there were very few people around.

Unfortunately the walking paths were all “closed” due to landslides, but everyone appeared to be ignoring them and walking anyway as there were no fences, just a sign to say it was closed. Between Manarola and Corniglia there was a fence, and naturally I jumped it thinking they were being overly cautious, but I had to turn back after around 20 minutes because a landslide had wiped out a whole section of the path, making it impossible to cross. I managed to walk between all the other towns, and the views were utterly spectacular. I recommend getting to see this beautiful stretch of coast before it erodes into the sea!


Dancing like a crazy person by yourself in the living room... Harmless
Dancing like a crazy person by yourself in someone else’s living room... Risky
Dancing like a crazy person with a near stranger in their living room... Priceless.

When sober I rarely have the confidence to dance. Give me a few drinks and I may think I'm pretty good... but I'm not kidding myself. I know I look somewhat special when I dance. This side effect of liquid luck is one of the many reasons I shouldn't drink! However, drink I do, which generally means I'll get up and bust a few moves when the time is right. In Milan, the time was definitely right. My final couch for Italy (this trip) Mario, lived about half an hour out of Milan and through his amazing personality and cooking skills managed to make me feel progressively younger as the night went on...

My night went a little like this:

An amazing dinner, matched with organic wines (produced by his friends), coupled with in-depth conversation about the youth of today and the decreasing value of face to face contact in society, whilst in the background the stereo hummed jazz music.

The music volume increased and changed from Jazz to up-beat sing alongs, drawing us to the living room where we had more room to bust out our moves. Sing alongs turned to house music progressing to techno and finally old school beats reminding me of high school were blaring through the speakers. At 2am, all danced out and having been told that I have control issues (because, whilst learning to dance salsa, I wouldn't give my full confidence to him spinning me around the room... go figure) I was ready for bed...

So after wiggling into my fluffy Pj's I crawled into the fire engine bed that was my couch and felt a kid again watching the cartoon animated walls fade as I turned off my night-light... evidently his 7 year old son was away.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Travel. Sponsored by Galassi & co.

Being the most indecisive person I know, it's always nice when I meet people who are good at making decisions, which then simplifies the questions posed to me.
For example; Would you like a drink? Becomes 'Red or White?' What are you doing next week? Turns into 'Want to go to London?' Where should we meet? 'Ever been to Notting Hill?'
My couch host from Florence, Lorenzo, is one of those people and a few weeks ago I received a message from him offering to show me around Siena as he had a 'free day'. I should have know that a) he's Italian, so he was an hour late to pick me up and b) as a master of 'Creative Truths' a day trip to Siena turned into a night in Chiantishire (fantastic wine region) followed by a shot-gun tour of Pisa and another night in Florence, where I was treated to the most amazing seafood dinner.

So the following week when I received another message from Lorenzo asking if I wanted to go to London because he would be working there for a couple days, my decision was easy. But in true Lorenzo style, he was 3 hours late and a 2 day work trip turned into 3 nights of eating out, theatre and dancing into the wee hours of the morning with his friends (consequently missing flights back to Pisa and therefore being late to his own going away party) It was fantastic!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My one true love.... FOOD!

 An early bus from Matera landed me in Naples by late morning and for those of you who don't quite live for food like yours truly, Naples is the home of pizza...Need I say more.
The pizza you get in Australia is rather different to what you find here, and although I know a number of people who would find the Italian pizza bare and lacking the usual 20 toppings, the flavour sensations that arise from an Italian pizza are pure bliss. I think that the simplicity of having home made tomato sauce, basil and chunks of fresh mozzarella on a thin, but not too crispy base, is a very beautiful thing!

This is hands down the BEST pizza I have ever layed hands on...

Aside from the pizza, Naples itself is also quite a beautiful place, but for me it didn't have the safest feeling as I was wandering around on my own, especially when it was starting to get dark.

In true Evelyn style, I got lost... a real surprise to you all I'm sure. As it was getting dark I found myself standing in the lobby of an apartment block, out of site from prying eyes, using the light to read my map, when a middle aged man came out of his apartment holding his motorbike helmet and (in Italian) asked if I needed help. Pointing to the map I asked him "Where am I?... I need to be here.”
After a few minutes of searching he raised his eye brows and said... "Now... here," then moved his finger to the other side of them map. "You go... here. Long walk!" <Pause> "Something something something something" (talking in italian, pointing to his Harley and picking up his second helmet) "something something, I'm Mimo." At this point I'm trying to figure out which is more risky; trying to find my way home through the dark abandoned streets of a city I do not trust, OR taking a bike ride back to the hostel with a middle aged man I don't know... Two fantastic options, but because I'm a practical kind of girl, I took the practical kind of solution, donned the helmet and jumped on the Harley! I might add in at this point that Mimo was a very friendly and respectable looking man... Plus, he was offering me a ride on his Harley...?? How much will power do you think I have?!
In the end all turned out well and 15 minutes later, after an exhilarating trip weaving in and out of traffic (from one side of Naples to the other) I was back at the hostel.